Once again, the double-edged sword that is Notre Dame's national independent schedule has come back to bite the Fighting Irish in the ass so incredibly hard.
Lou Holtz's favorite college football team could have almost sort of maybe won a game vs. a top-10 opponent for probably the first time in my lifetime. However, Marcus Freeman's defense let the pee dribble down their legs in crunch time. Two consecutive 10 men on the field penalties affored Ryan Day's squad to get a top-10 victory on the road Saturday night, winning 17-14 over in South Bend.
While Ohio State's ability to survive and advance may be its best attribute so far this season, ESPN's Paul Finebaum is all out on the Irish potentially making the final four-team College Football Playoff. Playing a 12-game, non-conference schedule allows the Irish to choose pretty much whoever they want to play. However, there is no margin for error, as a single defeat pretty much eliminates them.
Finebaum pulled out all of his remaining hair out of his 60-something noggin after witnessing the most hellacious defensive brainfart we have seen on a football field since Auburn's 2013 season.
Here he is getting fired up on Sunday morning's edition of SportsCenter after this Notre Dame gaff.
“I thought, isn’t there supposed to be a coach on the sidelines that is supposed to be in charge of that? And there are, the defensive coaches, the position coaches, the head coach. That was a major mishap for Notre Dame and it very likely cost them a spot in the playoffs."
Saturday night was yet another sign that Notre Dame will always choke vs. their very best opponents.
“I know some Irish fans are waking up this morning and are saying, ‘You can’t say that, we have many more games to play.’ Well, that was the biggest game on your calendar against probably the best team you’ll see — maybe — but this was at home and you have to win those games. The Irish’s arrogance about not being in a conference could come back to cost them because they don’t have a conference championship game to make it up.”
Finebaum is absolutely right in that Ohio State may be the best team the Irish play this year, as it remains to be seen how good the USC Trojans will be from at least a defensive perspective.
Siri, can you show me what an inexperienced head coach at a Power Five blue-blood looks like?
Paul Finebaum says there will no luck for the Irish in the CFP rankings
What this game does for the Buckeyes is it gives them a bit of leeway in Big Ten play going forward. They may have had an ugly first conference victory of the season over toothless Indiana, but if they take either Michigan or Penn State, then Ohio State could be in a position to make it back to Indianapolis for the first time since 2020. Of course, they would not control their own destiny here.
As for the Irish, we may be looking at another trip to something like the Gator Bowl. Though I suspect they will have a decent shot of upending Caleb Williams and the Trojans later this season, they are going to need Wake Forest transfer quarterback Sam Hartman to step up more in big moments. He had a massive in-game advantage over counterpart Kyle McCord, but could not get it done at home.
Overall, Notre Dame is still very much a top-12 program in the sport under Freeman. As long as he recruits at a high level and is able to maintain some level of strength in the trenches, the Irish could make their third-ever trip to the College Football Playoff ... next year. Yes, that is what the Irish are playing for right now. They need a whole lot of chaos to potentially crack the final four-team field now.
Finebaum is absolutely right in that the Irish have next to no shot of making the playoff at this time.